Thursday, 17 December 2009

list one

it's that time of year again. it's going to be a bit of a bust festive season so an early list....

so, books. the year started well as i made my way through the collected william maxwell. i was taken by giorgio bassani's tale of privileged folks in wwII the garden of the finzi-continis and i was doing okay on the poetry front with a collected cavafy and stephen scobie's at the world's end. after that tho my reading good fortune fizzled out and for much of the year i seemed to be going through the motions.

fiction. i don't like comic fiction that much and i certainly didn;t read richard happer's the hills are stuffed with swedish girls for literary quality. three men in a boat it isn't but the comparisons are obvious - even so for anyone who's gone hillwalking in scotland, is scottish and male, then it should be laugh out loud funny. out stealing horses by re petterson i enjoyed even if i wasn;t as taken by other books of his i read as a result. not much happens, most of it takes place in scandinavian forest but all of that was recognisable to me and i liked it for that. netherland by joseph o'neill seems to be another book that, like petterson's, divides its critics. both the characters and the setting were familiar to me and i liked the absorbing obsessiveness of the cricket.

fiction book of the year tho will be china mieville's the city and the city. i loved the central conceit of 'unseeing' of being able to train oneself to not see other people, another culture. not long back from hungary the nameless eastern european setting worked perfectly for me. enagaging and thought provoking i did try one of his other books but couldn't get past the first pages! i'd read this again in a snap.

poetry. i was desperately unengaged by much of what i read this year. even when it was well written the first person trials and tribulations of what it is to be a middle class white person left me cold. not to say that when it's done well it isn;t sublime - hello kate clanchy's samarkand but i was burnt out by it early doors. i was taken by tim turnbull's stranded i sub-atomica but without him reading it, it wasn't the same. possibly my poetry book of the year would have been songs of earth and light by barbara korun but, as i;ve been more inspired by pamphlets this year my poetry collection of the year is going to be david c purdie's the godothin.

poetry for me, should be something that takes me somewhere else and should show something that looks like graft to me. purdie's godothin did both for me in spades. i love all that old poetry anyway but this was the one thing i really settled to with the feeling i was really going to enjoy. and did.

non-fiction. and not unlike last year but maybe even moreso, the non-fiction occupied me much more than the fiction. from the earthbound entertainment of a bunch of cycling books to david whitehouse's the moon: a biography. i was thoroughly entertained. special mentions to - when skateboards will be free by said sagrafezadeh, a bio of an iranian american growing up with his communist dad. kate clanchy's antigona and me which i've mentioned on here before. Roger Crowley's rollicking and informative empires of the sea which deals with ottoman expansionism in the mediterranean in the 16th century, a real boy's own thriller of a read which leaves you wondering how on earth europe managed to survive at all let alone why the ottomans seemed to love to shoot themselves in the collective foot.

but non fiction book, and book of the year easily was paul fournel's need for bike. short, perfectly formed, yes, it's a cycling book but it's also a meditation on movement, masculinity, fatherhood and everything in between. i adored it from cover to cover.

film. i watched some honest to god quality bad films this year but the list of good films i saw was astonishingly brief. starting with jun ichikawa's tony takitani, slow but lovely. sergei bodrov's mongol was epic and lovely to look at. t watched them! for the first time and we both agreed, even allowing for the giant ants, it should be remembered better. lots of us went to see the last star trek movie and we all laughed. let the right one in ticked our swedish language boxes and scored well with me for being one of those rare films that's better than the book.

top film i'll split with a documentary. gary hustwit's helvetica is a crafted labour of love and consists of a series of interviews with people who both love and loathe the above font. it's graceful, measured and a reminder of just how much work and thought goes into really good design. and the other would be philip claudel's il y a longtemps que je t'aime. i took a while to get round to this and, despite a plot hole you could drive a bus thru, i loved it from beginning to end. it would be easy to say the two central characters were great but they all were, a mercy when so much of the film i watched this year was devoid of anything like characterisation, narrative or anything else!


Sorlil said...

My best two books of the year were the biographies of Hilary Clinton and Cherie Blair, both surprising really good reads, but I'm a biographies person anyway. I've not been overly excited by any new poetry in the last several months either, just ordered a bunch of poetry so hoping that'll make up for it. really looking forward to your chapbook coming out though!

swiss said...

i too have just ordered a bundle of salt things!

i may flick thru the cherie blair thing but you're not convincing me. i feel i'd need special gloves to shield me from the evil!

Sorlil said...

lol, it's surprisingly honest, I'll never look at tony the same way again

Rachel Fox said...

I saw that last film you mention (French one)...and I've got a terrifyingly huge film review post coming up any time very afraid.

As for poetry...we come at different angles for sure. You want something that looks like 'graft'. I think life's the graft...poetry's the flying up in the air looking down at the graft and thinking 'fuck, look at that bloody mess, down there, let's have a sing-song and a party'.



swiss said...

graft, ah yes, that should read 'craft'! lol

tony, i was going to say in a good way? but i can;t see a good way with him!

Dominic Rivron said...

The Star Trek movie was very good. I should watch more films. Reading your post made me realise how little new stuff I read/watch/listen to. I tend to revisit things I like a lot. I should get out more (literally and metaphorically)!

swiss said...

there's always the time factor. i don't watch so much these days. i did go to see it's a wonderful life on the big screen tinight of which more later